The Who Sell Out (Super Deluxe Box)

June 22, 2021 2:56 pm

I vividly remember the first time I heard a song off of this record.

It was the summer of ’70 and we were on vacation on the Texas coast. We had gone to the store and as we pulled up to the beach house, “I Can See for Miles” came on KILT AM radio out of Houston. Our station wagon had a metal dash with a 6” oval speaker and the song just EXPLODED out of it. Before my dad shut off the car I asked if I could stay and hear the rest of it. I just couldn’t believe it.

Several things come to mind – Pete Townshend coined the phrase “Power Pop” when describing the music of The Who and I consider “I Can See for Miles” to be the very definition of the term. Also, inexplicably, I thought the album, “The Who Sell Out” was cool but I didn’t really fully appreciate the magnitude of the whole concept because “I Can See for Miles” overshadowed everything. Until now.

My buddy Nitebob called and told me in a very animated way (highly unusual for Bob) that a Super Deluxe version was coming out. I pre-ordered it immediately due to his enthusiasm and boy, am I glad I did.

You can read about the package contents here. I listened to the stereo version while reading the beautiful book and for the first time I grasped the genius and art of the whole album by understanding the historical context in which it was released.

American kids in the late 60’s had AM radio and a new format, FM, which sounded better and played album cuts. These stations were privately owned and played whatever they wanted (subject to FCC rules). The free market provided what you heard. In England, where my heroes were from (Beatles/Stones), the BBC was owned by the government and dictated radio content. Pirate Radio sprang up – ships with onboard radio stations just outside of English jurisdiction and they played whatever they wanted (much to the chagrin of the UK government. English kids everywhere tuned into these stations to hear what I consider to be the greatest rock music ever made (1964-1972). The impact and value of these stations to those teens cannot be overstated.

In this breeding ground, The Who created their Pop Art masterpiece, “The Who Sell Out.” Released in December, 1967 and featuring quirky, intelligent songs framed by faux product commercials and public service announcements, this brilliant record simulates the experience a UK kid had listening to pirate radio.

The Super Deluxe addition contains a mono version you need to listen to on one, preferably cheap, speaker (just pan your worst stereo to the right or left and sit in front of the speaker but don’t use an iPhone speaker – they are worse than 60’s car radio speakers). The bonus tracks are a must listen and the studio sessions and Townshend demos are revelatory. Read the book that comes with it – I hope your experience is as good as mine.

Power Pop indeed!

Buy here or (preferably) at your favorite local record store